Labor Day was created to recognize Americans workers and their many contributions to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. It is particularly poignant in this economy, as hundreds of thousands of Americans seek work, and the jobless rate continues to climb. In addition, the majority (63.4%) of low-income Californians are working and still cannot pull their families above the poverty line. In 38.3% of poor families, a family member is working full-time, and in another 25.1% someone is working part-time. Workforce participation among the poor is higher in California than in the rest of the nation.
On this day when our country celebrates the American labor movement and a wide variety of workers, here at OneJustice we honor the work of a particular sector – the staff and volunteers at the almost 100 legal nonprofit organizations in California that seek to bring a little more justice into the world.
OneJustice supports a network of just under 100 nonprofit legal organizations which employ around 1,700 workers and under 800 attorneys. This network takes on the Herculean task of trying to meet the legal needs of the over 8 million low-income Californians facing legal barriers to basic life necessities. Clean water. Food. Health care. Employment. Education. The simple math adds up to 10,000 eligible clients facing pressing legal issues for every staff attorney. Clearly, the task is too big to be taken on alone.
That is why OneJustice also celebrates the hard work and compassion of the hundreds of volunteer attorneys who – in addition to their busy practices in the private sector – volunteer with these nonprofits to help expand the legal services for the poor. These dedicated volunteers show up at night and on the weekends – they staff free legal clinics and represent low-income individuals in court – they make grandparents into legal guardians, combat identify theft, make sure seniors get their medicines, and empower survivors of domestic violence to move forward. Sometimes they even board buses and travel for hours to provide free legal help to those in isolated and rural areas.
Like the poet Marge Piercy, at OneJustice we love “people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart / who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience / who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward / who do what has to be done, again and again.”
So – to everyone who strains to bring justice into the world, who does what has to be done to expand legal help for the poor, who labors to make the world just a little fairer – we thank you!
Now that you know who OneJustice celebrated today – who do YOU honor on Labor Day?